Draft law to eliminate prayer vigils at abortion services
The West Australian Government has moved to ban peaceful prayer vigils or the offering of support to women outside abortion facilities in the state.
Introducing the Public Health Amendment (Safe Access Zones) Bill 2020 WA on 14 October, Health Minister Roger Cook said that the legislation will bring the state into line with other Australian jurisdictions “in having protective measures in place for those who are accessing abortion services”.
It comes after a community response period during which a reported 70 per cent of people were in support of abortion clinic exclusion zones.
“we don’t even speak to people unless they approach us first,” Stephen Klomp
President of Right to Life WA Stephen Klomp said that for more than 20 years the organisation has held peaceful prayer vigils near premises where abortions are carried out.
“We are not there to protest,” Mr Klomp said. “Ours is a peaceful prayer vigil and we don’t even speak to people unless they approach us first.
“No member of the prayer vigil has ever been arrested for inappropriate behaviour despite many unfounded complaints to police by the abortionists, and despite their video cameras recording our presence.”
“Our police already have the powers to enforce any restrictions on our activity that they see fit and we have complied every time.”
Mr Klomp said an average of five babies each year are saved as a result of Right to Life’s visible presence. “We have even had mothers come back to join us,” he said.
The exclusion zone which will include the protected premises and any area within 150 metres of the boundary, will apply 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Along with harassing, intimidating or threatening behaviour, or recording a person accessing a clinic without their consent, it also bans “communicating by any means in relation to abortion in a manner that can be seen or heard by a person accessing the premises and is reasonably likely to cause distress or anxiety”.
Breaching the proposed law would attract a maximum penalty of $12,000 and 12 months’ imprisonment.
Last month a similar bill passed the South Australian House of Assembly. All other Australian states and territories now have exclusion zone laws in place.
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